Theology of gender equality builds momentum in the Pacific

19 October 2017

Church leaders from across the Pacific are meeting in Fiji this week for a 5-day workshop on the theology of gender equality and its role in ending violence against women.

The intensive training joins together leaders of women’s fellowship groups and ministers of churches in Fiji, Papua New Guinea, Samoa, Tonga, Vanuatu, Kiribati and Tuvalu to grapple with Biblical representations of human relationships and discuss what it means for the mission of the Church.

On Monday, Solomon Islander theologian Reverend Dr Cliff Bird made presentations on Biblical themes of gender equality, and discussed ways that men, women and church groups can promote the Bible as a foundation for equality, inclusion and dignity for all human beings.

He challenged participants to look at gender-focused passages in ways that consider the cultural and social norms of the time they were written, and what they mean for the church today.

UnitingWorld Associate Director Bronwyn Fraser says the training is designed to equip church leaders, particularly women, to go on to teach and apply what they’ve learned within their own faith communities.

UnitingWorld Pacific Program Officer Sina Suliano

“These women don’t just promote equality within the Church, they become advocates for anti-violence in society,” she says.

But it’s not just about women.

UnitingWorld Pacific Program Officer Sina Suliano says she has been ‘blown away’ by what she’s seen the workshop so far, and what’s possible when men and women leaders work together.

“As a young, Pasifika woman, it’s so encouraging to be in a space with these church leaders. When men spend real time listening to the strong, smart, powerful women leaders in their churches – it’s transformative,” says Sina.

She says many of the church leaders are already preaching about gender and violence against women, but say they’re keen to build their knowledge on the issue.

“The Pacific has a very strong faith base so having these leaders preach about gender from the pulpit tells me that this work has a very bright future ahead.”

The training is part of the Partnering Women for Change Program (PW4C), which is supported by the Australian Government and implemented by UnitingWorld.

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